News of the WeekPlanetary Science

Mars Rover Trapped in Sand, But What Can End a Mission?

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Science  22 May 2009:
Vol. 324, Issue 5930, pp. 998
DOI: 10.1126/science.324_998

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Times are tough for the Spirit rover. Last week, in its 5th year of exploration, Spirit became mired in a dry martian version of quicksand. Mission engineers are studying how it might extricate itself, but the crisis raises a perennial question: When, if ever, should a mission in its declining years be put out of its misery? When does the diminishing science output no longer justify the millions of dollars it costs?